By Clint Sandusky
At the recent CABDA Online/Virtual Expo, I had the honor to present two seminars. This virtual format allowed presenters to reach far more attendees from across the country compared to an in-person seminar. I want to thank show director Jim Kersten and communications director Tylor Robertson for organizing the event and for their help in making it easy for us presenters.
As part of the expo, CABDA created virtual “lounges” for attendees to ask questions and/or leave comments after the seminars. The attendees of my E-Bike Safety: How IBDs are the First Line of Defense seminar confirmed e-bike safety — or the lack of it — is a growing concern among retailers. This is also true for the public and law enforcement.
I believe it is going to take all of us working together. That includes retailers; manufacturers; cycling educators, advocates, and organizations; parents; schools; the media; law enforcement and beyond to ensure e-bike use is safer, legal, responsible, more fun, and continues to increase. Within my seminar, I mentioned how IBDs are the first trusted, and perhaps only, influential contact for a customer. This is especially true for those new to cycling.
We are seeing an increase in “electric bicycle enforcement” because of growing complaints and incidents across the country. More stories are emerging of unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible e-bike use.
We as a cycling industry and community do not want to see all the acceptance and access gains of e-bikes diminished or lost.
So what can IBDs do?
Keep doing the basics, the things you do every day in educating customers, including:
- A simple definition of an e-bike: “A bike with a boost,” according to Morgan Lommele of PeopleForBikes.
- If you can ride a conventional bike, you can ride an e-bike.
- Basic e-bike operations.
- The importance of wearing PPE (helmets, etc.), active and passive lighting, reflective apparel, and perhaps use of a horn and mirror.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Read the owner’s manual.
However, I encourage going beyond the basics for exceptional customer service for these reasons:
- Credibility: Show your customers you know what you are talking about.
- Customer confidence: If you are transparent about the bikes you sell, people will trust you with their purchase now and in the future.
- Customer care: Showing you care about their well-being goes a long way.
- Customer loyalty: Satisfaction with a purchase will have customers returning.
So how do you go beyond the basics? Here are six ways:
- Provide them information on what an e-bike is (the legal definition within your state) and the three classes of e-bikes, if applicable. Include what the user, access, and equipment requirements are — especially for Class 3 e-bikes. You might want to include what an e-bike is not, i.e., moped, etc. I like what IZIP includes under each of its bikes’ spec’s. It labels each and describes the nationally recognized three classes.
- Discuss not only e-bike benefits but challenges.
- Tell them of the dangers of e-bike tuning, from being illegal, unsafe, to voiding the motor’s warranty.
- Discuss and show the importance of a pre-ride Inspection (“ABC Quick Check”). For e-bikes, this now includes the “E” for electronics: on-board computer, ride mode switch, battery, motor, speed sensor, cables, etc.
- Go over key etiquette issues. This includes riding safely and legally, both on and off-road; ride respectably, cooperatively, and do not flaunt your power, especially to other cyclists. Use extra caution and prudence, especially on sidewalks and shared-use paths.
- Discuss things they need to know about riding their faster, heavier, and at times, less nimble e-bike. I like what Trek Bicycle Corporation has in written and video forms on its website: Start slow, brake sooner, brake lightly and evenly, ride with extra caution, and follow the rules on the road.
Things we all can benefit from
If you had the opportunity to attend Bill Nesper’s CABDA seminar Keeping the Bike Boom Alive With Bicycle Friendly Communities, he discussed the importance of bicycle education. He said having someone in your shop as a League Cycling Instructor or working closely with one to help educate your customers is important. I agree. You can find more information about the league and its Smart Cycling Programs at BikeLeague.org.
An important note about the league and its general liability insurance. Its insurance covers club members riding only Class 1 or 3 pedal-assist e-bikes during league member club rides. Important for your customers to know, if they plan to purchase and use an e-bike for such club rides.
There is also a wonderful nonprofit educational organization called CyclingSavvy. It offers cycling-in-traffic resources, education, and training online and in-person. I believe cycling-in-traffic education and training is essential for anyone riding an e-bike. This is especially important for those less skilled and experienced, which can include older or younger riders.
All cyclists must understand the traffic environment: sight lines, door zones, hazards, and conflicts associated with higher-speed riding, blind spots, and common motorist mistakes, especially by underestimating an e-bike rider’s speed. The dynamics of lane control and practicing driver behavior is also important.
A wonderful resource to stock is John S. Allen’s Bicycling Street Smarts — CyclingSavvy Edition (2019). John has been publishing his classic booklets for 20 years, and this one is available from CyclingSavvy.org or in a Kindle Edition, with full-color illustrations, on Amazon.
As a retailer, you have the opportunity to be that initial influencer and educator for your customers. Providing and/or directing them to the resources they need for quality cycling-in-traffic education and training is key. This will only help your customers to better enjoy and have a safer and more fulfilling experience.
Finally, I encourage all manufacturers to share on their websites the importance of seeking out the resources and/or attending quality cycling-in-traffic education and training — from organizations like CyclingSavvy and the League of American Bicyclists.
Cpl. Clint Sandusky retired in 2016, after a 24-year career in law enforcement, both with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Riverside Community College District Police Department. While with RCCD, he was a bike officer for 23 years and has been an active CA POST-certified Bike Patrol Instructor for over 26 years. He has taught on the national-level with the International Police Bike Association, including two e-bike workshops at its past conferences. He also is a member of its E-Bike Task Force Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.